With the holidays just around the corner, it is once again time for that annual tradition of marathon broadcasts of “A Christmas Story.” For every adult that never had (but always wanted one) a Daisy Red Ryder BB-Gun can relate this movie as the reason why their parents never allowed one in the house. Now that we are on the topic of guns, let’s talk about Gun Trusts. What is a Gun Trust and when is one needed? A Gun Trust is a legal entity that owns prohibited firearms that an individual is forbidden to own.
Without a Gun Trust in place, your unsuspecting loved ones could be guilty of a felony for possession of prohibited firearms. The definition of “possession” is very broad. It includes everything from driving a car while one of these weapons is on board to simply knowing the combination to the safe at home where the weapons are kept. A Gun Trust allows legal transfers and sharing of weapons and keeps your loved ones from accidentally committing a crime simply by being exposed to your weapons. Now for something very important: Before you start to think that these trusts are useful for nothing more than to protect dangerous weapons, you should know that in order to comply with the law, a Gun Trust must set out guidelines and limitations on possession and transfer of the weapons. Upon a gun owner’s death, a properly set up Gun Trust allows the firearms to be transferred to the gun owner’s intended beneficiaries without them having to go through the probate system.
What weapons need to have a Gun Trust? Any guns you own, that are covered by the National Firearms Act (“NFA”) should instead, be owned by a legal Gun Trust.
The list includes suppressors (also known as silencers), short-barreled rifles or shotguns, machine guns, destructive devices, and “any other weapon” according to the wording of the statute.
Traditional long-guns and handguns can be owned by most citizens, particularly since the Supreme Court cases of DC v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago which involved the Second Amendment. Prohibited persons “Super Naughty List” – includes felons, drug addicts, incompetent persons, the dishonorably discharged from the Armed Forces, anyone with a restraining order against them, and anyone with a misdemeanor domestic violence charge on their record. An inadvertent felony for possession of controlled firearms can cause your family members to be included on the “Super Naughty List” of those who are prohibited from owning firearms. Check your local statutes and ordinances before purchasing these weapons. A Gun Trust must comply with the firearms laws of the state where you live, as well as the state’s legal requirements for a valid Trust. If you are about to move with or go on a trip with your favorite “Naughty List” firearm, be sure to check the laws of your destination and any states in between; one of the issues that the NFA focuses on is controlling the movement of restricted weapons across state lines.
You might be wondering, can a Gun Trust can simply be tacked on to an existing Revocable Living Trust? The answer is probably not because most Revocable Living Trusts lack the necessary firearms language required by law for weapons to be passed along. At Glass Law Group, we draft complex trusts while ensuring they are understandable. Unlike a Will, one of the biggest benefits of a Gun Trust is that it does not have to be filed with the Clerk of Court. A Gun Trust, however, has to be filed in the registry of the National Firearms Act, meaning that they can be read by anyone who cares to take a look.
Think that gun over the mantelpiece or the World War relic in the closet is immune from all this? Think again. Even if the firearm is an antique and no longer fires, it is still definition-ally a firearm under the Gun Control Act of 1968 and is therefore a prime candidate for a Gun Trust.
So be a responsible gun owner (unlike young Ralphie Parker) and come see us at Glass Law Group so that we can discuss a Gun Trust that will best protect your right to bear arms and make sure that your weapons go to the right people and stay in the right hands.